Moral dilemmas make for meaty storylines and few are meatier than the one at the heart of Caroline Finnerty’s second novel.
“I had always thought that she was selfish for doing what she did.” So says Kate Flynn of her mother Eva who, diagnosed with cancer whilst pregnant twenty years previously, refuses potentially lifesaving treatment which might harm her unborn baby.
Eva subsequently dies leaving her heartbroken husband to cope as best he can with four children. The eldest, Kate, is mightily resentful of her mother’s decision to, as she sees it, put the life of one child ahead of the welfare of the rest of her family.
Fast forward to 2012 and Kate, happily ensconced with her live-in lover Ben is running an art gallery with her friend and colleague Nat in London.
She seldom thinks of the west of Ireland home that she abandoned immediately after leaving school; having seldom returned since, Kate would be happy if she never had to go back.
But then she becomes pregnant; and Ben, insists that they make the trip home where Kate is forced to confront her past and the anger, guilt and pain that she has suppressed for so long. Now an adult in love with her own unborn child she can finally begin to understand her mother’s reaction to an impossible dilemma.
Thorny issues like the right to life require careful handling, and it would be easy to take a high moral tone. But far from moralising, Finnerty instead explores with perception and sensitivity the grey areas surrounding what is too often viewed as a black and white issue.
Likewise marital infidelity, another controversial subject explored, via Kate’s friend Nat, in this multi-layered tale.
Any author who can have her readers rooting for a heroine as headstrong, stubborn and bloody-minded as Finnerty’s deserves credit; with The Last Goodbye she merits praise indeed.